Rafael Nadal returns to a Grand Slam final. (Saeed Khansaeed Khan / AFP / Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer met for the 33rd time and Nadal, the No. 1-ranked player in the world, continued his dominance with a straight-sets victory in an Australian Open semifinal.

Nadal, the world’s No. 1 player, has been on a roll since he was sidelined by a knee injury a year ago and beat No. 6 Federer 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 6-3 in Melboune. He’s now 23-10 against Federer, 9-2 against him in Grand Slams, and will play No. 8 Stanislas Wawrinka in the final. There had been concern that Nadal, who is 2-0 in Aussie Open finals, would be bothered by a blister, but he brushed off that talk, even though it took a little speed off his serve in the 2-hour, 23-minute match.

“Too much talk about the blister,” he told Jim Courier with a laugh afterward. “Today, it’s okay. Now the problem, as I said the other day, the position of the blister [makes] it difficult to cover, to do normal life … To play best of five against the best players in the world always is a big challenge. We tried to make the bandage a little bit less, shorter than the other day.”

Nadal, who has won his last five matches against Federer, now will go looking for his 14th major title, which would tie Pete Sampras, and is chasing Federer’s 17. “Wawrinka is playing just amazing, winning a fantastic match against Novak [Djokovic] and yesterday against [Tomas] Berdych, so he should come to this final with big confidence now. I never thought about having 13 Grand Slams already, so I never thought about having 14. The only thing I can swear is that I’ll try my best.”

Despite his dominance, playing Federer is special. “In the most important years of our career we competed in the best tournaments in the world a lot of times,” he told ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi. “That makes this match always very, very special, very emotional. It creates a special atmosphere.”

Federer played well, but Nadal is still on the rise, as Sampras, who was watching courtside in Melbourne, noted. “Roger is 32,” Sampras said (via SI.com) before the match. “Rafa is in his prime, 27, 28. So, sure, it’s not going to last forever. You have to appreciate this match tonight, so much so that you just have to sit back and enjoy it. These are two of the greatest players of all time playing in the same decade. It’s one for the ages. Let’s hope it lives up to the expectations. Certainly it’s not going to last forever. Everybody gets older and we all retire at some stage.”

Nadal is now second all-time in finals appearances at major tournaments. His 19th leapfrogged Sampras and puts him in a tie with Ivan Lendl, only five behind Federer. He’s closing fast.